The Last of Us series is winding down with only three episodes left. Directed by Liza Johnson and written by Neil Druckmann, “Left Behind” adapts the video game’s DLC story of the same name. Ellie and Joel are hiding out in a basement, and Joel is suffering greatly from his stabbing. He orders Ellie to go back to Tommy and leave him behind, but she’s reluctant. The episode cuts to a flashback of the events that happened before Ellie and Joel met, thus beginning the sweet, tragic backstory of our young protagonist.
Ellie is stuck in a FEDRA boarding school in Boston. Her best friend and roommate, Riley, ran away a few weeks back and Ellie has been grieving the loss. She gets into fights with classmates and even sends one girl to the infirmary to get 15 stitches. Everything changes when Riley suddenly returns and reveals she joined the Fireflies, the organization FEDRA is training students to fight and kill.
Ellie disapproves of her friend’s choices, but there isn’t anything she can say that will change Riley’s mind. However, as a sort of apology for leaving without saying goodbye, Riley asks Ellie to sneak out for a few hours and join her on a little adventure. Ellie reluctantly agrees.
The two sneak into an abandoned mall that was once used to hoard infected. Now it is filled with wonders and surprises beyond the youths’ wildest dreams. The girls connect like they haven’t been separated for weeks, and their chemistry is sweet and wholesome. Riley gives Ellie an array of gifts, from a photo booth and carousel ride to an arcade with Mortal Kombat and a brand new pun book.
All Good Things End
The evening comes to a halt when Riley reveals the Fireflies are sending her to the Atlanta base and this is her last night in Boston. Ellie is furious and runs away, fully intended on returning back to her dorm room. But she only gets so far before caving into her feelings and running back to Riley. They reunite in a Halloween store, where they wear goofy wolf and clown masks (replicas of the game’s masks) and dance to Etta James’ “I Got You Babe.” They share a kiss and the moment is so delicate.
Everything is perfect until it’s not.
An infected emerges into the store and attacks the girls. Riley shoots it and Ellie stabs it to death, but neither are unscathed. The clicker bit both of them. At the moment, any and all hope has been destroyed.
HBO’s “Left Behind” is the show’s truest adaptation of the video game thus far. The show cuts out the parts of the video game where Ellie roams through a mall and evades hunters as she searches for a first aid kit for Joel. Instead, The Last of Us focuses on Ellie’s history with her best friend and first love, Riley.
Just as Bella Ramsey is the perfect casting for Ellie, Storm Reid is perfect as Riley. The actors’ chemistry maintains the game’s charm; their portrayal of teenagers after an apocalyptic pandemic is pure and authentic. For the first time, Ellie and Riley can act like the kids they are, not the soldiers every adult is training them to be. It is endearing to see their relationship come to life.
Ellie’s backstory mirrors Joel’s in that it emphasizes their experiences of loss and grief. The pair have formed a connection they cannot lose. It is because of this that, at the end of “Left Behind,” Ellie goes against Joel’s wishes and stays with him to help him heal. She had to leave one friend behind before and she refuses to do it again.
“Left Behind” deserves five out of five Cthulhu. (5 / 5)
There are only just a few episodes left in The Last of Us. Episode 8 releases Sunday, March 5, where we should expect to meet the notorious cult leader, Dave. Until then, check out the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.
X-Men Under Siege Review: Vintage Comic Weird
“While the X-Men were away on a secret mission, Xavier’s Mansion was invaded by a host of Evil Mutants. The call is out. All X-Men must return to the mansion at once!” – pg 1, X-Men Under Siege Rulebook
X-Men Under Siege is a 1994 board game designed by Richard Borg. Richard is better known for games such as Memoir ‘44 and BattleLore, however, he has designed more than 130 games. X-Men Under Siege is the 12th overall game and 3rd X-Men game he worked on.
I picked up this game while on vacation at the Louisville Book & Music Exchange. It was a delightful store with a lot of used niche hobbyist items. My spouse and I saw X-Men Under Siege (specifically the mouth-watering miniatures it comes with) and were hooked. While originally intending to just take the miniatures as a painting project, we decided to actually try playing the game.
The board game is a competitive game for 2-4 players, in which you play as a squad of X-Men attempting to secure floors of the X-Mansion. There are six floors, all overrun with Evil Mutants to defeat. Your starting crew of two X-Men can grow to three as you play cards or rescue trapped heroes.
The goal of the game is to collect more points than your fellow players. Clear rooms in the X-Mansion, defeat Evil Mutants, and deal damage to gain points. The contents of each room are random and can either contain a blank, Evil Mutant, or captured hero. The main mechanic in the game is fighting Evil Mutants when they are revealed during exploration by rolling dice equal to the attacking heroes’ Fighting Skill. The game ends when a certain point threshold is reached or the whole X-Mansion is cleared of tokens.
There are eighteen playable characters, each with their own special ability. Characters include; Archangel, Banshee, Beast, Bishop, Cable, Cyclops, Gambit, Havok, Iceman, Jean Grey, Jubilee, Longshot, Maverick, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, Rogue, Storm, and Wolverine. However, the heroes are not equal. Each has a score for Fighting Skill, Durability, and Intelligence which changes the effectiveness of various actions. There are certain characters that have much higher scores than others, with the sum of scores being highly variable. Additionally, some of the heroes can only use their special ability when they are the leader, meaning they attack first in combat.
This game feels as if it has a great game hidden somewhere within it. The X-Men theme is well done and hits the spot in terms of my X-Men nostalgia. As a kid, X-Men Legends for the Xbox was one of my favorite games. Playing X-Men Under Siege was reminiscent of that experience for me, almost solely from the strong visual and narrative X-Men themes. I was SO excited to play as some of my favorite characters. The eighteen miniatures of all the playable heroes are very enticing too. Also, it was rewarding to face off against familiar X-Men villains. However, nostalgia and the general premise are the only things this game has going for it.
Before I get too critical, I acknowledge this game is for children and nostalgic adults. It is just disappointing to me that it falls flat because it is halfway to being a wonderfully enjoyable game.
Most egregiously, the core mechanics feel underbaked and confusing. How rooms are searched and moved to doesn’t make much sense and there are many edge cases that aren’t accounted for. Additionally, turn action allowances are also vague. From both of these, my spouse and I had to make up a lot of rules as we went just to keep consistency.
While fun to see X-Men villains in the Evil Mutant cards, they are flat. The only info on the cards is a name, picture, and strength number, which barely means anything. The hero characters were also a bit flat, especially since some of them seemed blatantly underpowered in comparison to others. Though, for better or worse, this game has hilarious names for game items. For example, X-tra Special Cards and Evil Mutant Blood Chips.
Overall, X-Men Under Siege was enjoyable to mess around with. It was just engaging enough that my spouse and I finished our game (even though it took 2 hours). However, it requires a deep love of X-Men (or cool miniatures) to find it too enjoyable. Definitely an interesting collector’s item but not the game to play for those looking for a good gaming experience. (2.8 / 5)
Slay the Spire Downfall Review: A Masterclass in Fan Content
Slay the Spire Downfall, also known as Downfall, is a fan-made mod to Slay the Spire by Table 9 Studio. Table 9 is a small game studio that has primarily specialized in small projects but is soon to release its own original game, Tales & Tactics. Downfall is one of its first projects, and has been met with heavy support from the Slay the Spire development team and community. It has been so successful, it even has its own Steam page.
If you aren’t familiar with Slay the Spire, check out my review! Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the base game, let’s get into the expansion!
Downfall adds considerable content and new playing options to Slay the Spire. Generally, there are plenty of new cards, events, and relics. Additionally, there is a new hero, The Hermit, an undead gunslinger. Cards in their deck have increased abilities when played from the middle of a hand, creating better outcomes the more deliberate you play.
In addition to traditional Standard mode, the game’s meat and potatoes is Downfall mode. In Downfall mode, you can play as one of seven bosses from Slay the Spire. Instead of climbing up the tower, you work your way down defending it from the same heroes you’d play as in the base game. Each boss has its own unique playstyle and deck, resulting in even more varied play experiences.
The seven playable bosses are The Slime Boss, The Guardian, The Hexaghost, The Champ, The Automaton, The Gremlins, and The Snecko. All can be encountered as enemies during a Standard run. Their playstyles are as follows:
The Slime Boss
The Slime Boss’s special mechanic includes slime minions that can split from the Boss and have a variety of effects. Additionally, the Boss has cards that add Goop, increasing the damage of the next attack and causing additional effects when consumed.
The Guardian’s special mechanic is that they are able to phase between modes after taking a certain amount of damage. The cards also have gem slots, which allows gem cards to be combined with other cards to make them more powerful.
The Hexaghost’s special mechanic is that it has six Ghostflames that can be ignited by playing certain card type combinations. When ignited, a special effect occurs. A large portion of the cards in this deck are centered around end-of-combat buffs and cards that disappear if not played immediately.
The Champ’s special mechanic is that they change between Defensive or Berserker stance, giving them bonuses depending on which stance they are in. Their cards interact heavily with their stances.
The Automaton’s special ability is that they create functions, cards which are the stored combination of three already played cards. Their cards can cause compile errors when certain cards are used together, and the deck is focused on function synergy.
The Gremlins’ special ability is that you play as all five gremlins, each with their own health bar and buff effects. Cards have extra abilities depending on which gremlin is the main gremlin at the time.
The Snecko’s special ability is that they play cards of any class. This means they have access to hero and boss cards of all types throughout the run.
The new playable characters are a hit. They are so much fun to play and add an intriguing new dimension to the game. My favorite new characters are The Automaton and The Slime Boss, though every time I play any character a few times, I find a new favorite! Each character is refreshing and interesting in its own way.
Generally, the gameplay takes an already great game and gives it even more replayability. My biggest critique is that Downfall currently doesn’t work on the Steam Deck, unlike Slay the Spire. However, it’s an absolute blast to play either way. Because this is a fan expansion, it is free to download! But you do still need Slay the Spire in order to play.
I can’t recommend this game enough. It is enjoyable, has a high level of replayability, and a greatly executed concept. I only wish I could play it everywhere! (5 / 5)
Slay the Spire Review: Deckbuilding & Monsters
Slay the Spire is a roguelike, deckbuilding video game created by small indie studio Mega Crit Games. Released in 2017, Slay the Spire is the first and only game created by Mega Crit. However, the game has continued to see updates from the development team and fans alike since its release. In fact, a Slay the Spire Board Game just launched in November 2022 on Kickstarter to great success.
In Slay the Spire, you play as one of four characters as they battle their way through a magical tower filled with monsters, loot, and curses. The further up the spire you go, the harder and more lucrative your journey becomes. Will you defeat three of the many bosses awaiting you and receive your glory?
Within Slay the Spire, there are four characters (The Ironclad, Silent, Defect, and Watcher) each with their own deck and playstyle. You begin by choosing which one you will play as for the journey ahead. The Ironclad has a focus on healing and strong attacks, and is the simplest adventurer to play as. This makes sense, as they are the first character you have unlocked and introduces you to the mechanics of the game. Meanwhile, The Silent has a focus on many small attacks and poison. The Silent is very accessible in its mechanics just like The Ironclad, however is less forgiving to strategic mistakes. The Defect is more complicated and has a focus in channeling different elements to produce varied effects on the battlefield. Lastly, there is The Watcher, the complicated character, who has a focus on utilizing different combat forms to gain advantages. In addition to different playstyles through their unique decks, each adventurer also begins with a special ability and starting health.
After selecting your character, you journey deep into The Spire, choosing pathways filled with monsters, merchants, more relics, rest sites, and mystery events. Killing enemies provides rewards through gold, cards, single-use potions, and occasionally powerful relics which stay with you the whole run. Elite enemies provide better rewards, however, healing opportunities are usually few and far between. Fighting too many elite enemies may prove more dangerous than lucrative. At merchants cards, potions, relics, and the removal of a card from your deck can be purchased in order to improve your strength. Rest sites provide either healing or card upgrades, forcing you to choose between your precious health and the improvement of your build. There are three acts in a full run, with a boss at the end of each act. As the acts progress, the bosses become harder, testing the mettle of your improvements throughout the game.
I have absolutely adored my time playing Slay the Spire. The progression within a run is difficult but rewarding. There have been times when poor luck ended my run, however I still always had fun anyway. The diversity of characters and the resulting playstyles is great, even if I have found myself going back to The Ironclad time and time again. Additionally the game gives the player a significant amount of agency in the decisions on how to improve your deck and character. This creates replayability and a sense of ownership over a given run. The game also rewards and encourages taking chances, making it a blast to push your luck.
While I’ve had a great deal of fun, there are some areas for improvement. My biggest gripe is that there aren’t more unique characters, monsters, events, and bosses. I’d love to see more playstyles as well as see less repeats of bosses, monsters, and events. The system and gameplay is so robust, it just needs some more content to be a top tier game. That being said, there have been periodic content updates (including the addition of The Watcher in 2020) and the community has created an extensive content mod that even has its own Steam page. Also, despite my issue with the amount of content, I definitely will be putting at least 30 more hours into this game.
Overall, I love this game and highly recommend it, so much so, I cannot wait for more content. For $25 on Steam, this game is a must play if you enjoy rogue-likes and deck building games!(4.5 / 5)